Deepti Atrish is the CEO and Founder of Poonyah Care, a health tech startup. She is working on innovations that will lead to longer & healthier lives. Deepti is a serial technology entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience managing a digital agency and has founded two start-ups. She was the winner of Top 100 Asian TechStars, a finalist for Tech Leaders Awards 2019 and shortlisted for Tech Women 100 UK, 2019. Poonyah Care was also the winner of the 2019 Innovation Showcase at Healthcare Unblocked. As a digital marketer, she has extensive hands-on experience in developing & implementing strategies, business modelling, product creation, paid & programmatic marketing across multiple industries. She is passionate about data-driven technology that improves the way health will be managed in the future using AI, IoT, blockchain and robotics.
Your company Poonyah Care has an interesting name and backstory, how did the business idea come about?
Poonyah was born out of my determination and passion to create a solution for the physical and mental well being of the elderly. Poonyah in Hindi means ‘good karma’. The idea behind the business came from a rather personal reason. I was living in the UK but wanted to be able to keep tabs on my elderly mother’s health while she was at home in India so I developed the idea of a remote monitoring device for vital signs and physiological data with a validated clinical scoring system. The idea was to get an early warning if anything unusual happens and so being proactive about my mother’s health.
These measurements could then be uploaded to a digital dashboard that could be interpreted by a medical professional and viewed on a mobile phone app. It would help reassure me and it would help keep my family healthy – and thus the idea of Poonyah was born.
Remote care for the elderly is going to be a huge benefit to society and a huge market, where do you see it being most beneficial?
Even before the current Covid-19 crisis, our healthcare systems were already struggling to cope with limited resources and the rise of an elderly population, many of whom have multiple health conditions. The UK currently spends around 9.6% of its GDP on healthcare and 55% of the NHS budget is spent on the over 85s. And, as we have seen when we look at the current pandemic hotspots, other European countries like Italy and Spain have similar or worse demographic trends in terms of their proportion of elderly citizens versus the working age group.
How could remote solutions help us in the pandemic we face right now?
In the midst of the current global public health crisis sparked by the arrival of the novel coronavirus, we can see that remote care is not just desirable but essential. Suddenly we have a product and service which allows patients to self-isolate whilst still being able to monitor key warning signs, such as a rise in body temperature, without any risk to the wider healthcare system or medical staff. Doctors and nurses are one of the groups at highest risk of exposure to the virus and yet trained medical staff are at a premium as the outbreak spreads and becomes more serious, putting more pressure on already strained healthcare services.
How advanced is Poonyah’s solution – could it be deployed to help fight the novel coronavirus right now?
We have already integrated a CE-marked remote monitoring device on our apps and remote monitoring platform and also have an FDA approved health score derived from using it. We are currently beginning clinical trials with 2 London hospitals (St Georges and the Homerton hospital) and will be using the device within the NHS in a real-world clinical setting as soon as these trials are up and running.
You already have a remote monitoring device, an app and the ecosystem around it, how and why does blockchain enter the mix?
I was very excited when I discovered that blockchain could be part of our solution because incorporating a distributed ledger system means means being able to gather and manage new data sets that could be more widely distributed and used by researchers. In future, it may also mean we could potentially help individuals generate an income from or find a way to secure donate and share their own health data. As we gather information from wearable devices, we must be able to make sure that patient privacy and confidentiality are protected. A distributed ledger-based platform is the best way for us to do that while also being able to develop new ways to harness this valuable data for scientific research and other commercial purposes.
What are Poonyah’s future plans over the next 12 months?
Poonyah is currently actively fundraising to build out its blockchain platform and add additional functionality to its services including wearable products, the data dashboard and the apps. The current fundraising climate is challenging but the timely and topical nature of our solution means we continue to garner great interest from investors and healthcare systems around the world. It’s going to be a very very busy year ahead.